Does Frequency of Training Really Matter?
There’s no way around it: exercise matters. Whether your plan is to reach your ideal body composition or maintain a healthy one, regular exercise is going to be one of the building blocks of your success. When you’re planning to change your body composition, there’s a lot to consider. Will you be trying to lose body fat, gain muscle, or both? What dietary plan will help you support those goals? Will you focus on strength training? Resistance training? Both? Even once you have all those details sorted, you’re still just in the planning stage. What really matters is the execution of your plan, and one of the questions that many people struggle when strategizing how to get started is this: how often should I be training? The question seems simple enough, but these days, it seems like the fitness community can’t make up its mind, especially when it comes to strength training/lifting weights. Some people say that if you train anything less than 6 days a week, you might as well not be training at all. Some people claim that training more than once a week is a waste of time at best and overtraining at worst. Which one is true? Is there a minimum weekly frequency that you must meet for results to come? Like most polarizing opinions, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. So today, we’re going to take a look at the three common weekly training frequencies: 5 days, 3 days, and 2 days. With a ton of science and some analysis, we’re going to figure out which training frequency is your best bet for achieving that ideal body composition.
The 5-Day Training Plan Philosophy
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the concept of training 5 times a week, as someone who’s never even trained twice a week, can be pretty intimidating. That being said, no one ever said that you had to push yourself to your breaking point Monday through Friday. The idea when working out this frequently is to ‘exercise regularly’, not ‘exercise like an Olympian’. That’s why when working out this frequently, many people elect to divide up the areas they work out each day, giving particular attention to just one muscle group (or system) while letting the others recover. This type of workout strategy is called a “split,” and is frequently favored by the bodybuilding community. Typically, 5-day splits are used to target a different major muscle group every day. Here’s one of the more common training plans:
Monday: Back and Biceps
Tuesday: Chest and Triceps
Wednesday: Shoulders and Deltoids
Thursday: Legs and Lower Back
Friday: Biceps and Triceps
Of course, this is just one of the many programs that people have developed. Some people replace a shoulders day with a cardio day, some do abs every day or make a day out of it...the sky’s the limit here.
But enough about the different ways to stack exercises, we’re here to figure out how a 5 day split can affect your body composition. Recall that the primary reason for doing a 5-day split has to do with the assumption that it’s better to completely push your body as hard as possible, section by section, but giving each section an entire week to recover. However, the position that a given body section requires a complete week to recover isn’t set in stone by any means. For example, in a study of male and female athletes, research showed that it took around 48 hours for the men to recover from bench pressing.
If that makes you pause, good, because it should. Muscle recovery is a huge topic with many conflicting studies supporting a certain amount of time needed for muscle recovery. There are additional factors that play into how much time is needed, such as intensity of the workout, nutritional plan, sleep, age, gender, etc. etc. Point being, there really isn’t much to support the idea that a 5-day training regimen, typically done as a 5-day split, is particularly effective, or even necessary for most people looking to improve their body compositions. Then why is it so popular? One the face of it, it makes logical sense to give your body a lot of time to recover from intense training. Interestingly, there’s a case in the scholarship of subjects reporting that they subjectively felt “recovered” after 6 days, which may contribute to people’s perception that such a long period of recovery is required for optimal performance. Lately, the 5 day split has been deemed by many as an inefficient way of training. The biggest concern that people have? The idea that by only targeting one muscle group a day, you aren’t maximizing your muscle gains. Research appears to support this claim: a recent (2016) meta-analysis of training frequencies concluded that muscle growth is better encouraged by targeting each muscle group twice a week, not once. While there is no doubt that exercising 5 days a week will help improve your body composition, it doesn’t appear that it’s a particularly time-efficient way to do it, and the research doesn’t appear to indicate much additional benefit either, at least as it applies to improving Lean Body Mass.
The 3-Day Training Plan Philosophy
People that train 3 days a week typically fall into one of two categories. Either they’re way too busy to train more during the week, or they know that training more often would be too difficult to maintain. Both are valid reasons for using this training frequency, by the way. A fitness regimen should certainly challenge you, but if the challenge is too great, you run the risk of setting yourself up for failure. What can a 3-day training plan look like? Unlike a 5-day training regimen, there is equal opportunity for doing a split schedule, with a week given for each muscle group to recover, or for a more whole-body approach, where the entire body is exercised at each workout.
The first thing to establish is whether or not 3 days is enough to contribute to meaningful body composition change. One of the more interesting studies was conducted by the Department of Kinesiology at UCM, which examined the effectiveness of a 3-day workout routine with 2 different protocols - a high frequency and a low frequency. Despite the different protocols, the researchers found that training 3 days a week was sufficient for Lean Body Mass increases. That’s right: whether you’re training like a madman on each of the three days or working through the exercises at your own pace, a 3-day program is effective at encouraging Lean Body Mass development. With both forms of training increasing lean body mass by 2% in eight weeks of training alone, it’s clear that 3 day splits are more than frequent enough to cause significant changes in body composition (especially in such a short amount of time).
The interesting thing about 3 day splits is their duality. While they are designed to put less stress on your body consistently, they inherently demand more of you. Since you’re training 3 days out of the week instead of 5, you’ll need to give it your all on the days that you do train to make up for the other days where you’re recovering. That’s not just bro-science, by the way, especially if you choose a whole-body routine in favor of a split. A studyby the Department of Health Sciences at CUNY Lehman College found that a 3 day full-body routine actually offers you statistically greater hypertrophy than a 3-day traditional split-body routine. This lends greater support to the idea that working out each muscle group twice a week instead of once can lead towards efficient Lean Body Mass development. 3 days is enough time to hit all major muscle groups twice, with a third day to use freely to target specific areas.
While reviewing these studies, one thing became clear: these popular training frequencies all work. When implemented properly, each and every one can help you improve your body composition. So what about our original question: does the frequency of training matter? Generally speaking - and especially for non-athletes - so long as you’re hitting all muscle groups twice a week, the answer appears to be no. Even a 2-day lifting schedule, provided it’s 2-day whole body, has been shown to be effective.
So which should you choose?
If you’re just too busy or know that you’ll get overwhelmed if you take on too much at once, go ahead and dive into that 2 day training plan. If you’re at a more advanced stage in your fitness and you prefer the challenge of lifting more frequently, a 3- or 5-day routine may be preferable. The important thing to remember is that more important than frequency is consistency. Be consistent with your fitness, and you’ll achieve results. As we’ve shown, things can become a bit murky when trying to tease out the nuances of exactly how many days you need to promote muscle growth. At a certain point, these arguments become academic; just choose a plan that you can realistically meet week after week, and you’ll see results.
As long as you’re exercising regularly and challenging yourself, you’ll be one step closer to a healthier, happier you.
Baytown Student Highlight - Danya Becker
What is your name and age?
My name is Danya Becker. I am 31 years old.
When did you join Elite MMA?
I joined Elite MMA in May, 2017.
Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?
My motivation for Martial Arts started with my son, Brenden, who currently practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Elite MMA.
In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?
Until my son started karate and, later, BJJ, I was unaware of the various forms of Martial Arts.
Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?
No. Approximately 2 years ago, I practiced BJJ for 6 months. Currently, I am only participating in Kickboxing.
If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?
Honestly, I didn't have any concerns. When my son joined Elite MMA, all of the coaches and staff immediately took my son in and treated him exactly like the rest of the students, despite coming from another BJJ school. Having witnessed this, I knew the coaches and staff would treat me the same.
Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?
While participating in Kickboxing, I have been able to push myself outside of my comfort zone, both physically and mentally. The Elite MMA coaches push me to perform at my highest ability. As a result of my constant effort, I was recently promoted and received a white/purple belt.
Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?
If you are looking to start your Martial Arts journey or looking to get in shape, then I would definitely recommend Elite MMA. Starting on your first day, you will feel welcomed by the coaches, staff and other students. There is always someone willing to lend a helping hand and guide you down the right path. The coaches will push you outside of your comfort zone and take you to the next level. If you have questions or concerns, they are very open and honest and will make your progress a priority. Since being here, I have made friends, gained training partners and become part of a great group of people that push one another.
Kingwood Instructor Highlight: Jordan Rivas
Owner/General Manager of the Elite MMA Kingwood
What classes do you teach?
Adults BJJ: men's and women's, Advanced BJJ, Kids BJJ, 4-6yrs old BJJ, Tier 2 Kickboxing
What is a memorable moment for you at Elite MMA?
Some moments that really stick out to me; my first class when I met Eric and Hai. Meeting my wife (Alaina)during one of the kickboxing classes. And also the day that I received my black belt.
Do you have any martial arts accomplishments that you are proud of and why?
I won silver at the Pan Ams of Jiu Jitsu, and Bronze the same year at the World Championships. As an MMA fighter, I have a combined pro/am record of 5-0, with 3 of my wins via submission.
Are there any professional accomplishments that you are proud of and why?
I am extremely proud of my academy and my students at both the Kingwood and Baytown schools. They demonstrate truly qualities of martial artists both on and off the mat. Our Kingwood school has grown so much in the last few years, and has given Kingwood/Humble area a profession source to learn the mixed martial arts.
What hobbies do you enjoy and why?
I love traveling, trying new cuisine, I am a Subaru enthusiast and I can spend hours playing xbox games with my son.
Any memorable family moments that you would like to share?
I met my wife Alaina doing the kickboxing class at Elite, and we now have a 9yr old son together (Thales) and a 5yr old daughter (Sophia).
If you could walk us through a day or week in your life what would it consist of?
Monday through Friday you can find me at the Kingwood Elite. I am always on the mat with students, during class and after class answering questions. I am passionate about my students advancement in the Mixed Martial Arts, and it is really rewarding for me to see them progress through the art that has done so much for me.
Westheimer Student Highlight: Patrick Tran
How was the tournament at the Pan American Championships? How did it compare the last years competition?
On February 2, 2018, I won my 2nd kids Pan Am title in Long Beach ,California at the Walter Pyramid. For the past two months before the championship, I would train 5 days a week nonstop to make sure I was ready for the championship. When it came to competition day, I was very nervous on what would happen; however, after I warmed up I was able to get a lot of the stress out of my system. On the 1st Match I won my by an armbar submission within the first round. In the finals I won by only two points, which was all I needed to win my second Pan Am title in the Pan Kids IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships. This time I also took home the gold. Winning my 2nd Pan Am title was more challenging than my 1st title last year (gold medal). This year I was in the yellow belt division and vs the grey belt division last year, the competitors were faster. I had only achieved my yellow belt earlier this year. My competitor in the final round had his yellow belt since 2015.
What intimidated you most about this years competition?
The thing that intimidated me the most was seeing the intensity of everyone competing while i was warming up before my match and watching some of the yellow and orange belt matches.
What was a highlight of one of your rolls at the competition?
The highlight of one of my rolls at the competition was when i won the 1st championship round by an armbar and in the finals ,i escaped a triangle choke attempt by my opponent.
What was your favorite moment at the Pan Ams?
The best moment of Pan Ams was when I received my gold medal at the podium and had my picture taken. This was a great way to start the year with a gold medal from the Pan Ams and even more so beat my last years title from the Kids Pan American Championships. I want to thank Elite MMA and everyone that helped prepared me for this prior to me going to the Pan Ams and me getting trained for this.
Westheimer Student Achievement Highlight - Jacob Agbor
A quick testimonial on my Elite MMA journey; considering how I stumbled on MMA less than a year ago, I'm quite fascinated by the transformations I've experienced thus far. To list a few, my confidence has sky-rocketed, I'm more grounded, having more fun, in the best shape of my life and started a modeling side gig, which I’ll expand on just due to the craziness of the situation.
I left Elite-MMA one fateful evening about 3 months ago, tired, upset and honestly pissed-off at having done horrible in jujitsu that day. As I walked through the HEB off Felipe to grocery shop, I purposefully had my headphones in, and was avoiding any sort of eye contact.
As I rounded one aisle I thought I heard someone call out, so I turned around, and sure enough, a well dressed gentleman was beckoning at me. So I approached, and 10 mins into the conversation he had shared that he was a local celebrity stylist, looking to groom some models (Paisley 360 by Tim Thorne). He asked if I was interested in modeling, I reluctantly agreed….
Fast forward to 2 weeks later and I had walked in my 1st fashion show ever! Fresh off The Rail (FOTR) . Then I did another event with Johnny Dang right after, a New Years event for Eva all in Houston, then just this month I got to walk at 2 shows for New York Fashion Week (NYFW), one of the premiere fashion events in the world right up there with Paris!!
So, these are just my reflections which I decided to share. Thanks!
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